If you’ve been to a bookstore recently, you may have noticed a slew of election-related books. Authors and publishers are betting that the presidential election, and the discussion around it, will mean increased demand for political books. These “instant books” (content driven by current events) have been a staple in the publishing world since the 1960s. Fast-forward several decades and “instant books” have never been so … well, instant. Today, with eBooks and other digital content, quality, timely content is only a click away, it seems.
Instant titles are tantalizing because they offer fresh content about a timely topic. We learned this first hand with the release of Bo, America’s Commander in Leash children’s book series within weeks of the first family’s introduction of the Portuguese water dog. Being first on the market with a book about Bo brought national (and even international) attention to the book series, to Mascot. It truly was my “fifteen minutes of fame.” Take a look at this interview that aired on ABCNews.com.
The series sold well, but just as quickly as demand soared for Bo-related content, it waned a couple months later.
This political season, we again jumped into the fray with two books: 52 Reasons To Vote for Obama and 52 Reasons Not to Vote for Obama. Both titles added to the national discussion about whether President Obama deserved a second term. There is a downside to “instant” titles, however. A day after the election, our 52 Reasons titles essentially became obsolete. Of course, this wasn’t a surprise, but publishing a book with a defined shelf life is nerve racking, to say the least.
We advise authors not to include any content in their books that might one day make them obsolete or otherwise date their inventory. Generally, evergreen content is the way to go. We learned this lesson the hard way.
When we published our first children’s book for the University of Florida called Hello, Albert!, we included an illustration of their football coach, Ron Zook. Not long after printing 7,500 copies, Zook was fired, and Gator Nation despised him, rendering our inventory worthless. We’d been “zooked” and we vowed never again to make such blunder.
So, the bottom line is that instant titles represent a real opportunity to tap into a hot topic. Instant books are not without risk, however, so keep that in mind.